Monday, June 22, 2020

Brian Landrus, For Now, with Fred Hersch, Drew Gress, Billy Hart

Brian Landrus has always come through as a player at the top of his game. This recent one gives us a total musical package of great blowing, compositional and arranging acumen and very distinctive group sound with a hand-picked team well chosen. The title tells us that this is For Now (BlueLand Records BLR-2020) as all worthy Jazz must be. Brian flourishes on baritone sax but also sounds great on the bass clarinet, alto flute and flute. He is joined by the formidable artists Fred Hersch on piano, Drew Gress on bass and Billy Hart on drums. Up-and-coming trumpeter Michael Rodriguez and violinist Sara Caswell also grace the program with some attractive cameo solos. And a string quartet joins in the sonic tapestry from time-to-time for a well conceived musical aura. It all works together in a program that stands out as far from routine or ordinary..

Of course it all sets off Landrum's vibrant, nicely detailed solo style. By now it is clear that he is one of the very best of the living baritone artists, a subtle and lucid voice, too, on his other instruments, a musical star who always seems to ,maintain a consistent brilliance and spirit.The beauty and strength of the Landrus-Hersch-Gress-Hart quartet shines through. Hersch's stellar pianism sounds perfect, driving and open when comping and an excellent solo presence that spells Landrus just as one would hope for. Rodriguez and Caswell are wonderful in their spots as well. The Gress-Hart rhythm team is as good as anyone out there now.  To listen to what they do in itself on this album is a wonderful listen.

The string quartet parts are strong and sweet combined, never gratuitous, ever sturdy and robust. The Landrus treatment of standardx allows us to refresh our idea of them. Landrus on solo bass clarinet on "Round Midnight" extends  nicely what Eric Dolphy did so well in his last years. And the Landrus-Hersch duet on Monk's perennial "Ruby, My Dear" reaffirms the timeless beauty of the song and showcases the two at an inventive peak.

The Landrus penned items give us the amassed talent in a setting that has recognizable signposts of harmonic-line-weaving mainstreaming with all the passion such music demands to speak to us today. There are no compromises--just some stunning artistry that sounds meaningful from first-to-last. It is a newly forged classic for our time and all the better for us! I gladly recommend this one to your ears.

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